No matter what you’re doing outside- camping, exercising, barbecuing, or just visiting with friends- there is no situation that can’t be made worse by biting, blood-sucking mosquitoes.
In peak season, they can make being outdoors absolutely unbearable.
And, no joke, they are surprisingly dangerous, spreading various diseases. Not good!
Accordingly, you want to do everything you can to keep mosquitoes away from you and yours, but resorting to bug sprays with all of their many mysterious chemicals might cause other problems for you down the line.
Luckily, there are many natural ways to keep mosquitoes in check.
How about fire and smoke? Will they keep mosquitoes away?
Yes, smoke can help keep mosquitoes away from you. Smoke serves as an irritant that can drive mosquitoes away or mask the human scents that they are attracted to. Mosquitoes will avoid intense heat generated by flames, also.
No one likes having smoke blown in their face from a fire, but if you’re desperate for some relief from clouds of blood-sucking mosquitoes then a good, smoky campfire or fire pit is just the ticket.
Also, it turns out there are many things you can do to enhance smoke’s mosquito-repelling properties. I’ll tell you all about it down below.
How Do Mosquitoes Find Prey?
Before we learn how smoke and fire can help us keep mosquitoes away, it will be helpful to know how mosquitoes find us in the first place.
Mosquitoes rely on several senses to locate prey, namely their sense of smell and also vision.
They can home in on people by detecting the carbon dioxide we exhale constantly while breathing, our body heat, and also lactic acid that is in our skin.
Mosquitoes also home in on movement, and if you have an elevated heart rate that means you’ll be producing more of all of these signals.
There’s a reason why they always seem to sic you when you’re working hard and sweating outside!
In any case, truly hiding or concealing our presence from mosquitoes is difficult, so driving them off is usually the best option…
So Why Does Smoke Work to Keep Mosquitoes Away?
The good news is that smoke genuinely works to repel most mosquitoes.
Depending on the species of mosquito, it does this in one of several ways: generally, smoke is an irritant that mosquitoes want to avoid, and the smokier the air the more likely they are to steer clear in the first place.
This means that if you’re hanging out near a fire, there are going to be fewer mosquitoes around overall.
Also, smoke can baffle or cover up the odors that mosquitoes rely on to home in on us, namely our carbon dioxide and also the lactic acid in our bodies.
Together, these two factors provide significantly improved defense against mosquitoes…
Will Fire Also Repel Mosquitoes?
Yes, to a degree as mentioned above.
Most insects, and that includes mosquitoes, will try to steer clear of sources of intense heat, and any mosquito that strays too close to open flames will be burned up almost immediately or, at the least, have its wings burned off.
That means game over for the little pest, and I, for one, am not sorry!
However, and this is important, it is the smoke produced by a fire and not the flames themselves that are predominantly responsible for repelling mosquitoes!
The Smokier the Fire, the Better for Mosquito Control
If you want a fire of any kind, be it a campfire, a fire pit, fire barrel or anything else to keep mosquitoes at bay you’ll need it to be as smoky as you can get.
Or at least as smoky as is tolerable!
Smoke is your friend when it comes to mosquito repellent.
This means that relatively clean burning fires fueled by alcohol, propane or even something like a rocket stove (that is extraordinarily efficient) won’t help you.
More smoke, fewer mosquitoes; or at least fewer mosquito bites! It’s that simple.
Stick to Wood Fires for Best Results
Whatever kind of fire you are building or using, you are well-advised to stick to wood and other natural plant-based fuels because they will reliably produce the most smoke that is the least noxious for you overall.
Sure, you can make tons of smoke by burning a tire, for instance, but that’s going to be virtually intolerable to be near to say nothing about how environmentally irresponsible it is…
Burning Mosquito-Repelling Plants is a Smart Move
If you want to take your mosquito-repellent smoke to the next level, consider tossing some plants on the fire that are known to have intrinsic insect-repelling properties.
Burning these will not only create more smoke, but it will also infuse the smoke with special compounds that these tiny critters just cannot stand.
This is one of the very best ways to truly clear the area of mosquitoes if you already have a fire going.
A few worthwhile plants in this regard include citronella grass (also known as lemongrass) eucalyptus, rosemary, and sage.
You can use dried versions of these plants if that’s all you have available, but fresh cuttings work even better because they take longer to burn and produce more smoke.
Also, you’ll get to enjoy a nice fragrance with your toasty fire!
Note: Some Mosquitoes are More Sensitive to Smoke than Others
It’s known that some mosquito species are more sensitive to the deterring effects of smoke than others.
Luckily, pretty much everyone I’ve talked to in North America reports of great success using smoke to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Assuming you aren’t somewhere else in the world and dealing with a different kind of mosquito you should be able to depend on smoke to greatly cut down on the number of bites you receive.
How to Implement Smoke as a Mosquito Repellent
Assuming you already have a fire going, using smoke to keep mosquitoes away is a cinch.
Remember: the rule of thumb is that more smoke is better, and if you’re dealing with a stiff breeze you want to be as near the smoke as you can.
If you notice the smoke starting to die down, add more fuel and especially consider adding some of the aromatic plants and herbs mentioned above for more mosquito-fighting power.
How Often Can You Use Fire or Smoke to Repel Mosquitoes?
Smoke, and to a lesser degree fire, is a constantly effective and continuous method of keeping mosquitoes at bay.
So long as the fire is crackling and there is plenty of smoke, you can depend on it to give you a little bit of relief.
Is Fire or Smoke Safe to Use as Mosquito Repellent?
It is worth mentioning that you should be mindful of air quality.
You certainly don’t want to be breathing in lots of smoke, and you definitely don’t want to be breathing it in continuously.
Never, ever try to use smoke as a mosquito repellent if you are indoors or in an enclosed space that does not benefit from good air circulation.
And, as always, be especially careful when building, feeding or resting near a fire to prevent burns or the accidental spreading of the fire.
Warning: Most Bug Sprays are Highly Flammable!
One special hazard associated with using smoke and flames as mosquito repellent is the fact that pretty much all standard bug sprays you might buy are highly flammable.
Yes, even the all-natural kinds.
This is because bug spray typically has flammable ingredients in the form of synthetic chemicals or all-natural oils, and oftentimes relies on flammable propellants like butane.
If you’re trying to get comprehensive protection against mosquito bites by using a good, smoky fire and then applying some bug spray to yourself you might wind up accidentally making a fire way worse or even spraying flames all over.
You also cannot rule out the notion that the flames might travel up the ignited stream of the bug spray, into the container and then cause it to combust with potentially lethal effect.
Never apply bug spray near an open fire or other source of intense heat!
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.